British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

35
IONIAN ISLANDS: GOVERNOR MAITLAND TO LORD BATHURST, 6 May I8171

Corfu.

. . . I have no difficulty in stating to your Lordship that under all the circumstances of the situation-looking at it in every point of view (and I believe many of the most sensible men in these Islands concur with me) that it would have been infinitely more for their benefit and advantage, had they at once been made colonies to England, than left as they are by the Treaty of Paris.

This however was impossible to be done under the Treaty. . . . I have always considered the Treaty of Paris as a Treaty made between Russia and England for the benefit of the Ionian people, and though in fact the other great Powers were styled principals upon the occasion, that in truth they were mere accessories to that Treaty. . . .

If I am correct in this, and if it be true that such was the real object of that Treaty, it naturally [meant] that if we did give to them either a better regulated system of Government, or an extension of liberty and security they never before possessed, that we had fulfilled both in the letter and spirit the obligation we had entered into with Russia, and that that Court at least could not have the smallest pretence for saying we had stretched the powers granted to us as a Protecting Sovereignty under the Treaty of Paris. I am fully persuaded that it is unnecessary for me to explain to your Lordship the grounds upon which I maintain we have done both the one and the other. It would be a mere recapitulation of what I have said in my address to the Primary Council, but I am sure your Lordship will agree with me in this general and incontrovertible sentiment, that definite power however extensive is a lesser evil in any State, than power alike undefined and uncontrolled.

This is the broad principle in which I have placed the powers to be possessed by the Lord High Commissioner. It is true that in the Constitutional Chart [t]his interference appears to form a leading part of it, that it throws this interference in the foreground, whereas the interference of Russia was always kept in the background, but I think the reason of this is so obvious, and the grounds upon which it stands so irrefragable that I conceived it infinitely better to subject us to this imputation, than to act upon principles that materially militate against the happiness of the people, and were in direct violation of every principle of our own Constitution. It may be said however that with all the powers conceded to the Lord High Commissioner, that still there is a reservation in many instances on the part of the Crown, and this is most true. But your Lordship will perceive that uniformly

____________________
1
C.O. 136/186.

-140-

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